Dying the hope of encounter victims

By Gladson Dungdung

Mynews.in 15 November, 2007

Ten months old baby Himanshu was sleeping at home with his parents in the afternoon. When he woke up, he did not find his father forever. It would be an upheaval for him when he would come to know that his father was dragged out of his bed, shot dead by the cops and depicted it as ‘encounter death’. But what would be his reactions? Will he follow his father’s footsteps? No one can imagine exactly! Himanshu’s father and uncles had taken the path of revenge when their father was killed for delivering justice, and three of them were shot dead by the cops in a fake encounter. This is the painful story of Nawadaben Police encounter, where three brothers – Ramji Singh (33), Lakshman Singh (30) and Bharat Singh (28) were shot dead by the police on 25th of August 2006. But even after running from pillar to post the family members of three slain brothers are still waiting for justice to be delivered to them.

The Superintendent of Police, Bhojpur, Umesh Kumar who had given order for the encounter, justified it by saying that all three brothers were awarded criminals of the district so there was no way left to catch them. The Police Inspector, Ranjeet Kumar who was the part of the encounter narrated that the Police team comprising of 2 DSPs, 5 Police Inspectors and 150 police personnel had gone to arrest them. The police divided into four teams and surrounded the house from all the corners. “We took position at a distance of 100 meters from the house and asked them to surrender but instead of surrendering, they started firing on us, we had not option than countering them. They fired 90 rounds bullets on us and we also counter fired about 100 rounds and finally they lost the battle”, he said. The IAS Officer and District Magistrate Vishwanath Singh had failed to apply the guidelines of NHRC on the case due to his ignorance. He said, “As per the guidelines of NHRC about encounter death is concerned, I’m not aware about it but I assure you that victim will get the justice”.

The horrible story of killings and counter killings begin with a case of land disputed between two villagers Jitan Mahto and Sabha Yadav of Nawadaben, Bhojpur in 1982. Jagarnath Singh the father of three slain brothers was the village head of ‘Nawadaben’ and he had to pronounce judgment on the case. Sabha Yadav wanted his favour from the village-head but the man followed the path of justice. After losing the case, Sabha Yadav killed Jagarnath Singh for not favouring him. These circumstances made six sons of Jagarnath Singh to follow the path of revenge. As a result the villagers divided into two parts and many people were killed from both the sides including Sabha Yadav. One after another, two sons and a grand son of Jagarnath Singh were also killed in the fight. “In spite of many effort were made, the Police neither lodge FIRs nor touched the culprits though the police knew them, therefore we decided to continue the path of revenge”, said Shatrudhan Singh only alive brother of six.

On the other hand, the police played an active role from the other part; lodged FIRs against these brothers filed by their rivals and put them behind the bars for a year. When they came out of the jail, another case of murder was filed against them. The police again started haunting for them. Finally the three of them were caught and shot dead by the Police in so called ‘encounter’. The fortunate brother Shatrudhan was saved, as he was not present in the house that day. What a tragedy! The family lost seven members in last 25 years.

The family alleged a local MLA of ruling party Bhagwan Singh Kuswaha for his involvement in a political lobby behind the killings of three brothers. The case was highly publicized by the media as encounter ‘death’ but the family members as well as villagers were not convinced by it and started series of protests, roadblock and dharnas against the police. Even they staged a protest in New Delhi and sought intervention of the National Human Rights Commission and CBI probe into the killings. The Bihar government had recommended for a CBI probe into the killings but nothing happened. Shatrudhan Singh and a widow Rekha Kunwar met to the Chief Minister twice to seek justice and action against police officials but it also went in vain. “I had met to the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar twice in Janta Darbar and asked him about the CBI enquiry but the CM said, “Go and ask to the CBI”, said Shatrudhan. The Bihar government had also ordered for CID inquiry which only killed the hope of victims. “Don’t expect justice from me” this is what the AC Verma Inspector-General of CID told Shatrudhan while he visited to the spot for investigation which later on reflected in his report, which says it was a genuine shootout.

The matter was also raised by a state team of the European Union-FNSt supported “National Project on Preventing Torture in India”. “After the police raided their house, two brothers had surrendered and the third one was dragged out of his bed. They were shot in cold blood,” said a report of the team. The team alleged the Nitish Kumar-led government had attempted to protect the interest of the legislator involved in it. The team had questioned the story on the police side arguing that two DSPs, five Inspectors and about 150 police personnel were involved in the shootout but none of them received any injury, how is it possible when three people were killed at other end? How three people were fighting with such a massive police with two guns recovered by the Police? And why the guidelines of NHRC were not followed in this case? The state government also violated the RTI Act in this case. The government did not respond to 3 applications filed by the team under the RTI for information on the case even after 45 days.

The team had also filed a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission, and when the commission directed to the SP of Bhojpur to file a report within four weeks, it got noticeable space in the media, raised the hope of justice for the victims. But the hope does not sustain for the longer time. The NHRC dismissed the case on 13 of December 2006 by the following order: “Since the matter is being considered by the competent court, the Commission does not find it appropriate to pursue any further. Accordingly, the report is taken on record and the case is closed”. Rakha Devi widow of the deceased had filed a case against the police in the court but ironically the District Judge did not take cognizance in the case even after one year though the NHRC believes in the competent court which would deliver justice to the victims.

The case is still pending in the lower Court and nothing happened in the case in terms of justice delivery so far. But the circumstances created direct impact on the Police of Bhojpur district. As a result, the Police avoid killings people in encounters. There were 4 genuine encounters took place in the district after Nawadaben incident but no one was shot dead by the police. The Police caught the criminals alive and put them behind the bars. Furthermore, 100 private complaints were filed in the Court against the Police in the district so far. The most incredible change was seen in Umesh Kumar the IPS office and SP, Bhojpur who had badly reacted and questioned the legitimacy of human rights activists, monitoring this case, now he wants to go for the human rights studies for his survival. “If I have to survive as a Police Officer, I must have to study about the Human Rights”, he said to the human rights team. But the main question remains unanswered is that will the encounter victims of Nawadaben get the justice?



Categories: General

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